...And the independent web conferencing market shrinks by one more player. WebDialogs just got acquired by IBM, which is trying to expand the reach of its Lotus Sametime line to reduce barriers to entry for smaller shops and companies that don't want to install the application software on site.
Lotus Sametime has most commonly been used by loyal IBM enterprise-sized customers with dedicated IT departments used to supporting business applications for their employees. In one of two press releases issued today, Big Blue says that it will be moving Lotus Sametime from a single monolithic product to a product family approach that allows companies to choose the solution that is right for them. This is all part of IBM's strategic "Unified Communication and Collaboration" (UC2) philosophy.
While the U in UC2 stands for Unified, it is safe to say that IBM would also like it to be "Ubiquitous." And to get their communications strategy adopted by a wider business audience, they needed to offer easier use options. Many small businesses don't want to install a big on-premise communications package. That is why WebEx and Live Meeting and the other conferencing companies have been able to grow market share... They can offer the use of the software on an as-needed basis, without requiring customer-based IT support and maintenance.
That paves the way for the second press release, announcing IBM's purchase of WebDialogs. WebDialogs operates in the Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) mode, giving IBM an instant offering for that target audience. IBM says right in the announcement that WebDialogs will be integrated with Lotus Notes and Lotus Sametime to provide the new functionality. I guess the first part of the integration is simply making a name change. The old WebDialogs Unyte web conferencing product is now IBM Lotus Sametime Unyte. What a pity they stopped there... I'm sure the marketing gang could have added on a few more brand identifiers if pressed.
So now IBM has its SaaS web conferencing offering safely added to its unified collaboration story. Cisco made their move months ago with the WebEx acquisition. And Microsoft just announced an October 16 launch date for its Microsoft Office 2007 unified communications suite. That takes care of the holy trinity of unified communications monsters. Troops, equipment, and ammunition are being moved into place. Supply lines are being hardened. Once the battle is joined in earnest, it's going to be a mess out there as these three fight it out for marketplace supremacy.